A Tale of Two Cities: NO 93, SAC 67
New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
After enduring a gut-wrenching 18-64 season by the hometown basketball team in 2004-05, the city of New Orleans endured one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history during the offseason. It’s safe to say that it can’t get much worse.
In their first game at their temporary home in Oklahoma City, the Hornets blew out the Kings by 26 points, getting great games from youngster J.R. Smith (19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover) and rookie Chris Paul (13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals). Even more encouraging for Byron Scott’s crew was the fact that they dominated without a meaningful contribution from newly-acquired swingman Desmond Mason, who played only 16 minutes and scored only 1 point. Count on Mason to start scoring in bunches once he gets the hang of the offense.
So are we looking at a juggernaut this season in Oklahoma City? Probably not. Are we looking at a winning team? Um, no. So what can we expect? Highlight reel dunks from Smith and Mason, head-turning passes by Chris Paul and Speedy Claxton, a ton of blocks for “The Birdman” Chris Andersen, and tremendous improvement from the top of the roster to the bottom. This might actually be a fun team to watch. After a year like these players and this city have had, that in itself is cause for celebration. Right!?
How do you get blown out by 26 points by the Hornets?
It’s a good question, and one that we won’t be able to answer until the new-look Kings get some more games under their belt.
After making wholesale roster changes in the middle of last season, replacing C-Webb and Doug Christie in the starting lineup with Kenny Thomas and Cuttino Mobley, the Kings shook things up again in the offseason by inserting Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Bonzi Wells in the same two spots.
Suffice it to say, the early returns aren’t promising. Sacto fans who have become accustomed to winning have a wicked collective hangover this morning. The Queens shot a miserable 31.2% from the field and looked very weak on defense against a team whose offense was rated dead last in the league last year.
The good news is that the Kings turned the ball over “only” 18 times on a night when nothing seemed to be working. Coach Rick Adelman has his work cut out for him this year with a roster full of NBA retreads, but he’s one of the best in the business.
Do the 2005-06 Kings have what it takes to return to their perennial pretty-goodness?